“Lindy Morrison is Tracey Thorn’s friend, and lets her tell the whole story!”
As drummer in The Go-Betweens’ during the 1980s, Lindy Morrison seemed larger than life on so many levels. When the band broke up in 1989, Morison largely moved off stage, helping fellow musicians as welfare coordinator for Support Act, as Artist Director on the Phonographic Performance Council of Australia, and as a music industry lecturer. Morrison was recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2013 and the APRA Ted Alberts Award in 2014. Now comes the next chapter in her remarkable story.
“You won’t believe what I’ve done: me, the quiet one. I’ve written it down, written you down, told all your stories, tried to capture you in the pages of a book.” Best-selling UK musician and writer Tracey Thorn has indeed written Lindy Morrison down in My Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend, a book built from deep trust and shared experience.
Thorn first met Morrison at the Lyceum in London in 1983. They were both performing that night. Thorn was just beginning her career, at the bottom of the bill with her high school band Marine Girls. Morrison, a decade her senior was drummer in The Go-Betweens, a Brisbane band living in London and riding high on critical acclaim, if not commercial success.
There wasn’t an immediate connection. Thorn was almost overwhelmed by Morrison. Yet a spark provided the basis for their friendship and a shared concern kept them connected: how to survive as a woman in the male dominated music industry?
Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend reveals Lindy Morrison’s life in an accumulation of fragments. Layers of understanding emerge through shared experiences, pieces of private correspondence and public history. Morrison’s life is not presented chronologically, it builds like a long friendship, uncovering new insights as it deepens and moves back and forth across time.
We read of the emergence of Morrison as a musician, entering that field through work in Brisbane radical theatre. Drumming sits alongside performance, it’s something physical and soothing that also breaks the rules, something Morrison is familiar with. She joins Zero, a group of young girls inspired by punk and anarchism. They play the Curry Shop, support the Cure, and share rehearsal rooms with another emerging Brisbane band, The Go-Betweens: songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster.
Thorn captures the energy of the moment Morrison and Forster connect, as lovers, and then as band members. It’s a joining of opposites. It’s recognition by Morrison that The Go-Betweens are unique. They record their first album, Send Me a Lullaby and move to London in 1982.
Lindy is clearly a potent force in the band, though struggles to claim space as a creative equal. And there’s another problem, Grant McLennan can’t stand her. Things start to unravel on their third album Spring Hill Fair, though somehow hold together for another three albums. During this time, Thorn and Morrison become closest, two women living in London sharing familiar experiences in the music industry. Thorn even provides backing vocals on two Go-Betweens songs (Spring Rain and Apology Accepted). By 1990, everything’s different. The Go-Betweens have finished, the relationship with Forster has disintegrated, and the friendship with Thorn is now a long-distance correspondence between Sydney and London.
There’s a rare emotional honesty at the heart of this book, a story of vulnerability, big ideas and passion. Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend also writes Lindy Morrison back into the history of The Go-Betweens, highlighting the spark she brought to the band and the roller-coaster of her life within it. We also see the pain Morrison felt when the band reformed without her.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend ends in 2019. After two decades of separation, an intimate, challenging, often very funny reunion takes place between Morrison and Thorn. They pick up their relationship in Sydney as if they’d never been apart. In Brisbane they drive across the Go-Between bridge and look at the house Morrison lived in as a child. They discuss the idea of Thorn’s book about Lindy. And this is it.
Tracey Thorn enjoyed success as a singer and songwriter before starting her writing career. She spent seventeen years with partner/husband Ben Watt in best-selling UK duo Everything but the Girl and has released four solo albums since 2007. Her best-selling memoir Bedsit Disco Queen (2013) is a beautifully written account of her unexpected musical career and success.
My Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend is everything you hope for in a music biography, fine writing with insight that reveals a great story in all its messy complexity.
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